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  WINDY CITY TIMES

BOOKS: A smorgasbord
by Tracy Baim, Windy City Times
2011-10-05

This article shared 7 times since Wed Oct 5, 2011
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Windy City Times receives hundreds of books to review each year, but we can only read and review a fraction of those. In this special WCT books issue we are including some mini-reviews for some recent titles, plus some mentions of others.

As always, we encourage our readers to purchase their books through LGBT-friendly and independent places such as Women & Children First Bookstore ( 5233 N. Clark, which also has online ordering, including of e-books ) , Unabridged Books ( 3251 N. Broadway ) , The Book Cellar ( 4736-38 N. Lincoln ) , Seminary Co-Op ( 5757 S. University ) , 57th Street Books ( 1301 E. 57th ) , Powell's ( 1501 E. 57th and 2850 N. Lincoln ) , Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore ( 7419 W. Madison in Forest Park ) , Quimby's ( 1854 W. North Ave. ) , Barbara's and other independent stores.

Windy City Queer: LGBTQ Dispatches from the Third Coast, edited by Kathie Bergquist ( University of Wisconsin Press, $24.95 ) . Bergquist has always been a writer who cared about other writers. She used to write for Outlines/Windy City Times ( and even did our youth column for Nightlines oh so many years ago ) , and she coordinated ( with Owen Keehnen ) our annual Windy City Times Pride Literary Supplement. She helps promotions and plans events at Women & Children First Bookstore, and she's an all-around cultural supporter. Now, she's edited a collection of Chicago-area LGBTQ writers and it deserves our applause. There are both established and new writers, organized along seven themes, such as "emergence" or "in transit." There are poems, memoir, fiction, essay and performance texts, and it is a who's who of queer writers, including: Sharon Bridgforth, Edmund White, Robert McDonald, Cin Salach, Achy Obejas, David Kodeski, Aldo Alvarez, Carol Anshaw, Mark Zubro, C.C. Carter, E. Patrick Johnson, Goldie Goldbloom, Owen Keehnen, Yasmin Nair, Gregg Shapiro, Gerald Wozek, Kay Ulanday Barrett, Carina Gia Ferrero, Deb R. Lewis, Karen Lee Osborne, D. Travers Scott, Allison Gruber, Brian Bouldrey, Nadine C. Warner, Emma Vosicky, Jeanne Theresa Newman, Sheree L. Greer, J. Adams Oaks, Rose Tully, Avery R. Young, Richard Fox and David Trinidad. Enough said? Love writing or reading? Get this book. This is an inspiring offering by Bergquist, and just a taste of more great things to come. Thursday, November 3, 7 p.m. there is a release party for Windy City Queer: LGBTQ Dispatches from the Third Coast, with editor Kathie Bergquist and contributors Sharon Bridgforth, Goldie Goldbloom, Robert McDonald, Achy Obejas and Gregg Shapiro. The party will be at Women & Children First Bookstore, 5233 N. Clark Street in Chicago, ( 773 ) 769-9299.

What You Don't Know About Men is by Chicagoan Michael Burke. These are 20 very enjoyable short stories telling tales of men in the Windy City. This is a slim book from iUniverse, and at $12.95 it is really worth your money and time. I enjoyed the quick reads and glimpses into the lives of a wide variety of men. In "The Jonquils," he starts: "Kenneth Collins is doing what Kenneth Collins always does when Kenneth Collins is anxious: repeating a silent prayer … " and "Words, words, nothing but fucking words and no words at all about fucking. And that was the great thing about Jordan, though you wouldn't know it by anything that was said at the memorial this afternoon." This is simply a terrific book, a debut by a very promising writer.

The Lost Women of Lost Lake, by Ellen Heart ( Minotaur Books, $25.99 hardcover, also on Kindle ) . We can all rest easier when Jane Lawless is on the case—and especially when her creator Ellen Hart releases a new Jane Lawless mystery book. Here's some promo language for her new book, now available: "Restaurateur Jane Lawless is taking some much-needed time off at her family's lodge when her best friend, Cordelia Thorn, arrives with news that one of their good friends, Tessa Cornell, has taken a nasty fall and needs their help with rehearsals for a play that is set to open in a week. When Tessa isn't on crutches, she helps run Thunderhook Lodge, the premier resort on Lost Lake. And while she clearly needs Jane and Cordelia's assistance, she isn't exactly acting all that grateful. A man who claims to be a journalist has arrived in Lost Lake with an old photograph and some questions about a death that go back decades. In The Lost Women of Lost Lake, Jane's only hope of protecting Tessa from the secrets that are surfacing all around her is to uncover the whole truth before anyone else can."

Black Battle, White Knight: The Authorized Biography of Malcolm Boyd, by Michael Battle ( Seabury, $30 ) . Openly gay Episcopal priest Malcolm Boyd is a true pioneer of the gay spirituality movement. Boyd's 1965 book Are You Running with Me, Jesus is a classic. Boyd turned 88 this year, and this book details his life's quest for peace and justice. This is also a very personal book for the author, who weaves his own story with that of Boyd. Battle is an African-American heterosexual Episcopal priest, and he interviewed Boyd, a white gay Episcopal priest who is his spiritual director. There is an introduction by Archbishop Desmond Tutu: "One is an octogenarian, and the other a late baby boomer. One is heterosexual, married with three children; and the other is gay in a long-term partnership. One is black and the other is white. But the similarities far outweigh the differences, the chief similarity being their mutual search for God here and everywhere." Boyd is the author of more than two dozen books; in the 1960s, his poetry readings at the Hungry i nightclub in San Francisco earned him the nickname "the Espresso priest." Boyd was also a civil-rights and anti-war activist, and was among the Freedom Riders in 1961 ( Freedom Riders took buses into the segregated southern U.S. to test the Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia—which banned racial segregation in bus terminals serving buses that crossed state lines ) . Battle is rector and canon theologian in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. He is the author of several books, including Ubuntu: I in You and You and Me.

Blind: A Memoir, Belo Miguel Cipriani ( Wheatmark, $19.95 ) . In the spring of 2007, Belo Cipriani was beaten and robbed of his sight at the hands of his childhood friends. This book chronicles the two years after that attack as the San Francisco-based, openly gay writer shows and tells how he survived this change in his life. We learn to "see" through the newly sensitive other senses of the author as he navigates the most simple tasks we take for granted if we can see. "He narrates the recondite world of the blind, where microwaves, watches, and computers talk, and where guide dogs guard as well as lead," the book's promotion states. The author told the Mercury News in 2011: "I wrote this for anybody losing their sight, and I wanted to give people who are blind and gay empathy and a springboard to realize rehabilitation is possible. I want the general public to know there is a way to progress regardless of whatever challenges you face. People say to me, 'If I'd gone blind, I'd never be able to do what you're doing,' but you don't know that. The perception is that everything is over when something happens, but that's not true."

Black and Blue and Pretty Dead, Too, by Mark Zubro ( MLR Press ) . Coming in November is the much-anticipated new novel by Chicago-area writer Mark Zubro. He has written 22 mysteries and five short stories, and I just love his books—they are great for an escape from the real news. As the publicity states for his next book: "One of the keys in Zubro's mysteries is you do not want to be a person who is racist, sexist, homophobic, or a school administrator. If you are any of those, it is likely you are the corpse, or, at the least, it can be fairly well guaranteed that bad things will happen to you by the end. And if in Zubro's books you happen to be a Republican and/or against workers' rights, it would be far better if you did not make a habit of broadcasting this. If you did, you're quite likely to be a suspect, or worse."

The Metropolis Case, by Matthew Gallaway ( Crown, $25 ) . This is one of those rare books I actually purchased because the publisher didn't bother to send us a review copy of this very gay-inclusive work. I read a review in The Advocate and that inspired me to actually get the book—even though I had about 50 books in line ahead of it to read. Well, Gallaway does not disappoint. This is a truly fascinating read told across more than a century and across thousands of miles. The connection for these characters—gay and straight, male and female, Parisians and New Yorkers—is Richard Wagner's opera Tristan and Isolde. I am not an opera lover, and have never seen Wagner performed, but I absolutely loved this book. I felt I didn't need to know the depths of Wagner to understand the despair of the characters, their loves lost and lives lived. I enjoyed this book as one of my tops for 2011, comparable in wonder and originality to my 2010 enjoyment of the fabulous The Room by Emma Donaghue ( Little, Brown and Company, $24.99 ) and The Paperbark Shoe by Goldie Goldbloom ( Picardo, $15 ) —two other wonderful reads that are highly recommended for lovers of books.

Sweet Like Sugar, by Wayne Hoffman ( Kensington, $15 ) . Hoffman is an author and journalist, and his work has appeared in many publications, including Windy City Times. His new book is about a friendship between a young gay man and an Orthodox rabbi. As Hoffman notes in the promo for the book: "In Yiddish, there is a word for it: bashert—the person you are fated to meet. Benji Steiner, twenty-something and gay, is skeptical of the concept. But the elderly rabbi who stumbles into Benji's office one day has no doubts. Rabbi Jacob Zuckerman's late wife, Sophie, was his bashert. And now that she is gone, he grapples with grief and loneliness. Touched by the rabbi's plight, Benji becomes his helper."

The Quest for Brian, by Jeff Graubart ( CreateSpace, $25.95 ) . Lovers of Chicago LGBT history get a good background from the point of view of activist-turned-writer Graubart, who was a front-line participant in 1970s and 1980s gay activism in the Windy City. This is a novel, of one man's quest for love, but it is historical fiction that should interest Chicagoans. But at 732 pages, it is a commitment you may have to spread out over a few long sittings. See thequestforbrian.com .

Why Suicide: Questions & Answers About Suicide, Suicide Prevention, and Coping with the Suicide of Someone You Know, by Eric Marcus ( HarperOne, $14.99 ) . Prolific gay author and activist Eric Marcus is one of our community's most important writer-historians. All of his books provide insight into issues of importance to LGBT life and history. Why Suicide is a re-issue that has been updated and revised, and it could not be more timely, given the continued depressing rate of LGBT suicides, among the young and older. Marcus' father committed suicide, so this issue has been close to him most of his life. The book is a required read for anyone who cares about the why, how and getting beyond a suicide of a friend or family member. This is not about gay or straight, but of course it is informed by Marcus' own gay lens. For more on Marcus see www.EricMarcus.com .

Just Like You, by Robert Kroupa, illustrations by Hannah F. Harrison ( Seven Legs Press, www.justlikeyoufoundation.org ) . Also relevant to the issues of suicide and bullying, Chicago-based Seven Legs Press has published Just Like You, about intolerance toward children with different physical abilities. This is a very timely book: 11-year-old Mitchell Wilson from Canada, a child with muscular dystrophy, killed himself in September after he had been tormented by another boy—he feared facing him again once the school year started. The publisher of this children's book states: "Piney Forest is home to many creatures, but Boris and Henry play and live by themselves on its edge, shunned because they do not look like everyone else, have other ways of walking and talking, and do things differently. When danger threatens their forest home, they must warn those who have bullied them and lead them to safety." The illustrations are very enjoyable. Profits benefit the Just Like You Foundation that deals with bullying issues faced by children.

Keesha & Her Two Moms Go Swimming, by Monica Bey-Clarke and Cheril Bey-Clarke, with illustrations by Aiswarya Mukherjee ( MyFamily! $12.95 ) . Our diversity of LGBT families needs books for all ages to represent our lives, but often our diverse lives are not reflected in books for kids. The Bey-Clarkes, a married couple who are also the business partners behind the MyFamily! Company, have given us this children's treat for your family and relatives. The book is for ages 1-4, and promotes the normalcy of LGBT families. It even helps kids learn to share. Uh-oh, watch out for the right-wing hate mongers, they can't be far behind.

InSight of The Seer, by Linda Andersson and Sara Marx ( Bella Books, $14.95 ) . Bella Books took over the book business previously known as Naiad, and they issue several lesbian books each year. Filmmaker Andersson and her friend Sara Marx co-wrote this first in a series of books based on Andersson's Internet-based series, The Seer and InSight. Deborah Stewart ( Rizzoli & Isles, The 6 Month Rule ) was in the series. The book follows the life of psychic Los Angeles Police Department officer Guin Marcus and her dysfunctional work and love life. If you could read a woman's mind, would you use that to get her into bed? Those and other ethical questions are handled very well in this novel. A fun read.

John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster, by Judge Sam L. Amirante and Danny Broderick ( Skyhorse Publishing, hardcover, $24.95 ) , is described a "the true story of the lawyer who defended one of the most evil serial killers in history." Chicagoans are unfortunately well aware of the murderous past of Gacy, a Northwest Side "clown" who killed at least 33 young men and teenage boys. Finally caught in 1978, Gacy was executed in 1994. The book includes some never-before-seen graphic photos and drawings, and is told from a very insider perspective. As the promo for the book notes: "What is it like to defend a man who you know to be guilty of crimes so grotesque they will make your blood curdle? Can you guarantee to him a fair trial without the influence of hate, spite, or the desire for revenge by a shocked, sickened and outraged public?" This is for those fans of Law & Order and followers of true crime—and it is not for the faint of heart.

Letters from Frank: An American Terrorist's Life, by Ingrid I. Holm-Garibay ( Dorrance Publishing, $27, see www.dorrancebookstore.com ) . Former Chicagoan Holm-Garibay, a native of Mexico, has written a book about a domestic terrorist, Frank D. Alexander. While the author was in the North Las Vegas Detention Center awaiting political asylum in the late 1990s, she met Alexander, who was being detained before extradition. "They begin communicating through detailed and extremely personal letters, discussing the subjects of sexuality, politics, family life, and even spirituality," according to the book's publicity. "As Frank's past is methodically dissected, one can deconstruct his letters and gain incredibly profound perspective into the making of a modern-day terrorist. This deeply insightful collection of letters is a necessary read for every American who wants to understand terrorism at its deepest roots."

Narrating the Closet: An Autoethnography of Same-Sex Attraction, by Tony Adams ( Left Coast Press, $34.95 ) . Adams is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication, Media and Theatre at Northeastern Illinois University. This book examines how the metaphorical closet—as used in the phrase "coming out of the closet"—affects persons of all sexualities. "Motivated by the death of his partner, Adams explores the closet at various stages—entering it, inhabiting it, and coming out of it. He also offers strategies for coping with difficult coming out situations," the promo material said.

Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries, by Karen Tongson ( New York University Press, $24 ) . Tongson, assistant professor of English and gender studies at the University of Southern California, provides a "queer cultural study of sexuality, race and representation in the suburbs." It focuses on the Los Angeles suburban sprawl. This is a non-fiction account of the ways queers live and impact the "Lesser Los Angeles" area. My only complaint is the tiny type, making it a difficult read for an already heavy subject.

The Girls Club, by Sally Bellerose ( Bywater Books, $14.95 ) . This book is set in the 1970s and is the story of three sisters dealing with growing up and womanhood. Author Lesléa Newman said the book is "riveting, gripping, unputdownable," and Joan Nestle, founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, said "One of our finest writers gives us this best yet portrait of a working class, lesbian coming out in the early 70s." Bellerose was awarded a fellowship in literature from the National Endowment for the Arts based on an excerpt of this book—that should be enough to get the to a bookstore ( or computer ) to purchase this book.

Unwelcome: An Archangel Academy Novel, by Michael Griffo ( Kensington, $9.95 ) . True Love fans itching for some vampires during the TV show's off-season can trek through this tale of young blood-suckers. This is the second novel in Griffo's series and is a "young adult" novel that likely some "not young" adults will gravitate to.

I Got This! … I Think?, by Vicky Nabors ( available through Lulu.com and Amazon ) . Nabors, a former columnist for Outlines and BLACKlines newspapers in Chicago, self-published this come-of-age novel. It is about losing control, and trying to get it back. Phoenix Jackson is the novel's lead character, and this is a story of her quest for unconditional love.

For Frying Out Loud: Rehobeth Beach Diaries, by Fay Jacobs ( A&M Books, $17 ) . Jacobs is a comic writer with three books dedicated to her life in Rehobeth Beach, a heavily gay resort town in Delaware. The book features her columns with short, funny takes on a wide range of subjects from the gayby boom to falling in love and from dykes on bikes to RV travel. Jacobs has been published in numerous gay and mainstream publications.

The Carousel, by Stefani Deoul ( A&M Books, $16.95 ) . A collection of discarded carousal horses are the backdrop for this novel about a woman at the end of her rope, physically and emotionally, and her effort to both repair the horses, and her life. The author is a TV producer and writer.

The Indelible Heart, by Marianne K. Martin ( Bywater Books, $14.95 ) . Do you like the old quick-read Naiad Press books featuring women seeking justice through whatever means necessary? Here's a book for you: "Ten years ago, Charlie Crawford shot dead his two lesbian neighbors. Sharon Davis was their avenging angel, the woman who fought to win justice for her murdered friends." Justice has a price, and we find out the cost from this Lambda Award-nominated author of eight novels.

The Choosing: A Rabbi's Journey from Silent Nights to High Holy Days, by Rabbi Andrea Myers ( Rutgers University Press, $19.95 ) . This non-fiction book tells the story of Myers' coming out as a lesbian on her path to Judaism. She was an advocate for same-sex marriage in New York, and speaks through a liberal Jewish voice on a variety of issues. Myers grew up as a Lutheran, so this is an interesting book for those of any persuasion making a conversion to another faith.

Facebook Me! Second Edition, by Dave Awl ( Peachpit Press, $21.99 ) . Ah, how difficult it is to get ahead of Facebook and actually write a book on how to use this ever-changing social networking tool we all love to hate—and love again. Chicago gay writer Dave Awl is a splendid writer and worth the read, even if we know some of the Facebook tools will change before our very fingertips. The basics of Facebook are still there to learn, so if you want to look behind the curtain, this is the book for you. Awl is especially on-target in his recommendations for Facebook etiquette, on how to use the site for publicity and on protecting your ever-shrinking privacy.

The Bad Always Die Twice, by Cheryl Crane ( Kensington, $25 ) . The title of the book probably tells you all you need to know—except that the author is the only child of the late actress Lana Turner. This is the first in a line of mysteries starring a realtor-turned-amateur-sleuth. Well, in this economy, that might be a good second profession for all our realtor friends out there. Crane, who is a lesbian, probably has a lot of stories inspired by her difficult upbringing—in 1957, Turner was with gangster Johnny Stompanato, who abused her; 14-year-old Cheryl stabbed the man after he threatened to kill her mom. The judge ruled it was justifiable homicide.

The Bridge of Deaths, by M.C.V. Egan ( AuthorHouse, $13.99 ) . This is a fictional account of a true story—the Aug. 15, 1939 crash of a British Airways plane over Denmark, before Hitler invaded Poland. The crash killed five, including author Egan's grandfather and an anti-appeaser member of the British Parliament ( Anthony Crossley ) . With World War II looming, the crash received little notice, but Egan does her grandfather proud in digging into the archives for some kernels of truth. She believes the crash was not an accident, and her 18 years of research make for a compelling story. "The Bridge of Deaths is far more fact that fiction," the author said. "My research opened a can of worms—and my hope is that the historical community will reopen this case to ultimately uncover the reasons behind the crash." This is not a gay book, and the author is not gay, but fans of historical fiction should be satisfied with this tale.

The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, by Mark Morford ( Rapture Machine, $20 ) . I reviewed this book in the Jan. 12, 2011 Windy City Times, but I loved Morford's writing so much I wanted to recommend it again. He is a pro-gay San Francisco-based columnist who will take you on a wild ride with his words, thoughts and actions—brilliant writing, collected into a book for your enjoyment.

From Disgust to Humanity: Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law, by Martha C. Nussbaum ( Oxford, $21.95 ) . This book is from 2010, but worth recommending as we enter further into the unknown landscape of the U.S. Supreme Court and our LGBT rights, especially related to the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Nussbaum ably charts the course of the past so that we can learn lessons for the future. The book looks at a wide range of gay-related issues, including "public sex," marriage and discrimination. Many legal theories rely on and are motivated by shame and disgust, the author said, and it is because of those policies that we have seen injustice, oppression and violence towards LGBTs. Nussbaum is a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago.

The Deal from Hell, by James O'Shea ( Public Affairs, $28.99 ) . This is not a gay book by any means, but is a book of interest to anyone who cares about the mainstream media and especially the Chicago Tribune—and the "deal from hell" that caused the once-prestigious ( well, in some people's eyes ) Tribune Company to be cut off at the financial knees, forced into bankruptcy due to greed and arrogance. O'Shea had an insider's view, since he was managing editor of the Chicago Tribune and past editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles Times, which was owned by Tribune Company. So O'Shea clearly has conflicts of interests as well as some grudges to settle—but as long as we know this going in, we can piece off some of the lurid truths of this multi-billion-dollar debacle. There are plenty of villains to go around in this book, a must-read for journalists and j-students who are going into debt to get a degree for an industry imploding from the weight of some really stupid mistakes. My stepdad Steve Pratt worked at the Tribune for 29 years—and was screwed by them when he wanted to get out early after my mom died. My mom Joy Darrow also worked at the Tribune, in the 1960s—but was forced to leave when she wanted to be a more serious journalist ( women had their place back then ) . So I clearly have some bias here as well, though I have always had friends and colleagues inside the Tribune I admire—they were not the power brokers using people as players in an elaborate, rigged chess game.

That's enough for this Book Briefs column—back to reading ( and writing ) a bunch more books. Note to publishers of "big new LGBT books"—don't forget the LGBT media when promoting your books; sometimes it amazes me how overlooked LGBT media can be when it comes to the writings of our own. It is important these books are reviewed through the lens of our own community, not just the mainstream.


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